School bus officials say it's time to look at installing seat belts
Former president of Ontario School Bus Association hopes CBC investigation will lead to action
School bus officials in the London area say they were surprised to learn Transport Canada had not released a study about seat belt safety on school buses until after a CBC Fifth Estate investigation unearthed a 2010 study done by the federal agency.
"Like most people I hadn't heard of the 2010 study until the Fifth Estate ran the segment the other day," said Maureen Cosyn-Heath, the Chief Administrative Officer at Southwestern Ontario Transportation Services. "Speaking personally, I think it's quite surprising that the report had not come to light until the piece ran."
The 2010 Transport Canada study found, among other things, that thousands of injuries and numerous child deaths may have been prevented if children had been wearing seatbelts.
That troubles Les Cross, the regional manager for Elgie Bus Lines and a former president of the Ontario School Bus Association.
"When I was president, we had in 2016, asked Transport Canada to publicly release the 2010 study. Then in July of 2016 we had a follow up letter to Transport Canada regarding our February letter to see if they had taken any action. Then in April of 2017 we had made another request."
Cross is frustrated those requests went unanswered. Now he's hoping the release of the study by Transport Canada will bring about change.
"Hopefully there will be some action taken now. Certainly the investigation and the work to determine what's the right method of putting seat belts in buses, that work should be happening right away."
Cross said changes in technology could take safety measures beyond seat belts in school buses.
"Who knows what's next? Maybe air bags in the back of each seat or maybe side impact bags are possible," he said. I mean the technology is there but the funding required to make those changes is another problem."
Cosyn-Heath expects it will take a great deal of consultation with stakeholders to determine next steps. Organizations such as school bus manufacturers, school bus owners, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Transport Canada will all need to play a role in future decisions, she said.
Cosyn-Heath acknowledged parents who've lost a child in a school bus accident have endured one of the most horrific losses that anybody could be expected to endure.
"I'm certain as the research is emerging these people must be grateful that it's coming out. They must hope that it prevents future losses for other people," she said. "And, it must be incredibly difficult to know that perhaps something could have been done to save their child."